My name, "Matt Rouge"

My last name, “Rouge

In case you didn’t know, rouge means “red” in French, but my ancestors did not come from France. My great-grandfather, Charles A. Rouge, came from Geneva, Switzerland, to New York City in the early 1900s. I don’t know much about him. His son, Charles F. Rouge, ran an art supply store in Manhattan until his death in the mid-1950s. My father, Lawrence Rouge, entered the military soon after he got out of college and married my mother, who is originally from Southern Indiana. They settled in Indianapolis in the early 1970s, and thus begins the story of my Hoosierhood (actually, I am adopted, so four people established my Hoosierhood, for which I am extremely grateful).

I am the last of the male Rouges in my family, and there are only three other persons currently of the tribe who have borne this august appelation from birth: my unmarried sister, my unmarried aunt, and my three-year-old daughter. It’s a rare name, and a good one I think, so it would be a shame if I did not combine DNA with a suitable partner and have some sons to carry on the tradition (the first of which will definitely be named “Charles”).

In English, “rouge” is a word not so rarely used (a woman rouges her cheeks with a bit of rouge). Despite this fact, throughout my life people have mispronounced my name egregiously, calling me “rogue” or “roogie.” I finally discovered a way to get people both to say it correctly and remember it for the long term: when introducing myself, I say, “I’m Matt Rouge–like ‘Baton Rouge’ without the ‘baton.’”

Should I ever run for president of the United States, my campaign slogan will be, Rouge, White & Blue. Were I not to do so, I am quite certain that the GOP would accuse me of being an effete Frenchman a la Kerry and “red” like a communist.

My first name, “Matt”

To be sure, there is nothing unusual about the name Matt. I did have an issue with it, however. I used to go by “Matthew” in a halfhearted way:

New Person: Hi, what’s your name?
Me: Matthew.
New Person: ¬°Mucho gusto! Is that “Matthew” or “Matt”?
Me: Either, I guess.
New Person: Well, which do you prefer?
Me: Gosh. Let’s go with “Matt.”

When I lived in Japan I was always “Matto.” When I came back to Indy in 2004, I decided just to go with “Matt”: simpler, easier, and with no confusion about whether “Matthew” or “Matt” is desired by moi (not French, Swiss!).

For what it’s worth, I never use my middle name.

UPDATE

My sister Emily wrote this on my Facebook wall:

Hey Matt, actually our ancestors did come from France – our great grandfather’s wife – Josephine Piquet was from St. Pierre, France

So I guess I am an effete Frenchman after all.

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